This week, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards will announce projects developed through Louisiana’s Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments (LA SAFE), an innovative planning effort launched by the governor in March 2017. Led by the state’s Office of Community Development (OCD) in partnership with the Foundation for Louisiana (FFL), the initiative worked to develop strategies and projects in anticipation of coastal land loss and increasing flood risk. Throughout the past year, residents of Jefferson, Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany and Terrebonne parishes joined parish officials, community-based partners, planners and policymakers to envision future outcomes based on 50-year modeling developed through the state’s Coastal Master Plan.
Throughout 2017, FFL’s Coastal Community Resilience Program co-managed and co-funded 71 community-based meetings to catalyze adaptive response to coastal change. Now, Gov. John Bel Edwards prepares to announce a $40 million suite of LA SAFE projects to be funded to address the effects of coastal change across sectors including Housing & Development; Transportation; Education, Economy & Jobs; Stormwater Management; Culture & Recreation; and Public Health.
LA SAFE included three key components:
a planning process across six coastal parishes with unmet needs tied back to Hurricane Isaac in 2012
the development of adaptation strategies complete with proposed projects and programs as well as policy recommendations
the promise of funding for at least one project within each eligible parish.
On Friday, April 20, at 10 a.m. in Gretna City Park, Gov. Edwards will announce the selection of community co-designed projects to receive funding for implementation.
Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation in 2016, Foundation for Louisiana (FFL) facilitated the design of an inclusive and equitable planning process to address land loss and increased flood risk with residents of Plaquemines Parish and other local partners. OCD-DRU also won resources to support LA SAFE as part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s National Disaster Resilience Competition. By early 2017, the OCD-DRU and FFL decided to collaborate on the implementation of that planning process in Plaquemines Parish as well as in Jefferson, Lafourche, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, and Terrebonne parishes.
The LA SAFE project team emphasized grassroots, community-based planning, hosting public outreach and engagement events to crowdsource ideas for the types of catalytic interventions required to comprehensively address the effects of land loss and flood risk. In addition, the state will soon follow-up on today’s announcement by finalizing and releasing adaptation planning documents for each parish and the six parishes region this summer.
Throughout the LA SAFE process, the FFL team served as a grantmaker while also bringing technical expertise, relationships with individual and organizational community-based partners, coastal curricula for workshops and table host trainings, logistical and staff support, and, most critically, the understanding that residents most impacted by coastal change must have a seat at design and decision-making tables to address those changes.
Graduates of LEAD the Coast, a program that offers community leaders the opportunity to expand their coastal knowledge, had the opportunity to lead discussions and facilitate activities at LA SAFE meetings. The program is designed to grow resident knowledge regarding the dynamic delta system and historic land loss, coastal challenges and opportunities, government players and their roles at multiple levels, and introductory facilitation, organizing, and advocacy skills. More than 75 residents from eight parishes have already participated in the LEAD the Coast trainings. Sixty of those leaders provided support as table hosts at LA SAFE meetings. (Read more about LEAD the Coast here.)
FFL also invested heavily in grantees to support and lead the LA SAFE process. With grant dollars from the blue moon fund, FFL was able to support grassroots level expertise and engagement to strengthen and promote local wisdom. Grantmaking efforts supported outreach to insure equitable access to meetings, thought leadership of community-based partners, and investment in the growth of local capacity to address these challenges and opportunities for decades and generations to come. Some of these grantee partners include:
Coastal Communities Consulting
Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing
Zion Travelers Cooperative Center
Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development
Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
Additionally, FFL supported the implementation of the planning process by providing support for the collection of valuable data sets, the creation of communications materials to effectively reach residents, and the pursuit of relevant research questions to investigate the complexities of coastal change. Among these, The Data Center provided invaluable information on migration trends and demographics, job centers, and residential units. New Orleans Video Access Center documented the meetings and created project summary and check-in videos like the ones found below.
The announcement of projects for the six parishes involved in the LA SAFE process serves as an example and testimony to the great work that communities, and their leaders, can accomplish when the foundation and their allies invest in people. It is through that investment that FFL can achieve its mission to reduce vulnerability and strengthen communities across Louisiana.
The FFL team, partners, and allies are excited to see the announcement of the LA SAFE projects and are confident that the funding decisions will remain consistent with community priorities. The projects were evaluated against multiple sets of criteria, the first of which was public polling conducted at a final round of outreach events and through online surveys. These projects were developed and designed with more than 3,000 unique residents across the six LA SAFE parishes. The work of the foundation continues to be rooted in a strong belief that community-driven design leads to equitable and inclusive work that is more holistic and effective.
“We believe that the State of Louisiana’s investment in a strategic adaptation process allowed for the development of more comprehensive consideration of the effects of coastal change across sectors and disciplines. With equity at its core, the LA SAFE program has illustrated that community-based decision making can incorporate local knowledge alongside the most sophisticated coastal modeling the state has to offer,” Liz Williams Russell, FFL’s Coastal Community Resilience Director, said. “Just as we learned that our work in Plaquemines Parish could serve as a model for the work that came to fruition in the LA SAFE projects and (soon) the adaptation strategies, we believe the work that we accomplished with LA SAFE also can serve as a model for future collaborations, strategies and projects across the coast and statewide. This will not be a one-off, but the way of the future.”
On the horizon will be yet another example that FFL’s investments in people and equitable processes fosters long-term change through the release of parish-specific and regional adaptation strategies. Stay tuned for efforts and activities still to come!